The Slatest

Watch Clinton and Sanders Both Refuse to Call Donald Trump, Who Is a Racist, a Racist

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at Wednesday night’s debate in Miami.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At Wednesday night’s Univision/CNN Democratic debate in Miami, moderator Karen Tumulty asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders directly whether they consider Donald Trump a racist. Neither would say so:

The transcript of Hillary’s answer: 

If I’m so fortunate enough to be the Democratic nominee, there will be a lot of time to talk about him. I was the first one to call him out. I called him out when he was calling Mexicans rapists, when he was engaging in rhetoric that I found deeply offensive. I said basta, and I am pleased that others are also joining in making clear that his rhetoric, his demagoguery, his trafficking in prejudice and paranoia has no place in our political system. Especially from somebody running for president who couldn’t decide whether or not to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke. So people can draw their own conclusions about him. But I will just end by saying this. You don’t make America great by getting rid of everything that made America great. 

Tumulty followed up by asking how Clinton would “describe the character of a person who has said the sorts of things [Trump] has about Mexican immigrants, about women, and who would ban people from entering this country based on their religion.” Clinton called it “un-American” but said she would “not engage in the kind of language that he uses.”

Sanders’ answer:

I think that the American people are never going to elect a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, who insults women, who insults African-Americans—and let us not forget that several years ago, Trump was in the middle of the so-called birther movement trying to delegitimize the president of the United States of America. You know, I find it very interesting, Karen, my dad was born in Poland. I know a little bit about the immigrant experience. Nobody has ever asked me for my birth certificate. Maybe it has something to do with the color of my skin. 

Politically, one might not want to call Trump a racist because it might alienate people who share some of his views but don’t consider themselves racists and could be otherwise convinced to vote Democratic. As a matter of accuracy, though, if someone who says Mexican immigrants in America are disproportionately likely to be rapists, argues that Muslims should not be allowed into the United States, and repeats sleazy urban legends about the behavior of American Muslims and black people is not a racist, then the word has no meaning. Donald Trump is a racist!

Read more Slate coverage of the Democratic primary.